Why are we so afraid to march to the beat of our own drum?

This month on We Hear You, Meghan Woods, an early childhood teacher and member of the Educational Leadership Working Group at Gumnut Cottage, located on the campus of Macquarie University in Sydney, reflects on the important role of a service’s philosophy and the key issue that might be driving practice in early childhood education and care services across Australia.

In the last year I have had the opportunity to attend a variety of different professional training sessions. Meeting educators from all across NSW, I recently found myself reflecting on a recurring driver in all of our conversations. While there was always passion, energy and knowledge, there was often also a sense of fear. Regardless of the topic of conversation, this fear, this anxiety, was lurking in the background. At times, it was underlying in our conversations, at others it was clearly articulated: “Is what we are doing right?”

My reflections seemed to be suggesting that there is an underlying anxiety in some early childhood educators around their pedagogy, the programs they are delivering and how they are documenting their practice, as well as the way this might affect their rating as a quality early childhood service.

Today, I was sitting in our outdoor space when I was handed a book by Caspar, one of the two-year-olds in my class. His smile said that he wanted to share this book with me. So we found a spot on a rug and began to read.

Many of you would be familiar with this book – Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. As I began to read, I couldn’t help but smile. The story had me drawing a direct parallel between my earlier reflections and the tale of a giraffe who had no confidence in his ability to dance, and who, with the support of a wise cricket, discovered he could be the best dancer once he found the right music.

So, how can we as educators find the music that we need to be the best we can be?

I believe that our music can be found in our service’s philosophy. The philosophy is the one document in a service that is unique and only applicable to that service. It communicates the distinctive rhythm and beat that is created when we work together with children, their families and our team of educators.

With that in mind, here is my challenge to our leaders in early childhood services: Does your philosophy clearly communicate the distinctive rhythm of your community? We need more leaders who can embrace their inner wise cricket and help us all to establish the music that we need to be our best dancers/educators.

Our responsibility as educators is to find the music that allows us to be the best dancers we can be.

Are we salsa dancers, ballroom dancers, jazz dancers, tap dancers, break dancers or head bang along to 80s rock dancers?  With so many styles of music, how can we be sure which is the right one for us?

Music can be so varied, however it still contains fundamental elements. In all music, you find components such as rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, texture, tone or colour. In this same way, our approaches to our teaching, documentation, programs and practices need to be underpinned by our fundamentals – the regulations, the Early Years Learning Framework and current research. We need to be mindful that our music must also be reflective of our community and sector. It is dynamic in nature. It is an expression of who we are and what we value.

As a sector, we need to be like a good radio station – we need to be broadcasting and celebrating the unique role that early childhood education services play within the Australian community. We have a deep connection with a huge number of families and work in partnership with them to nurture the future generations of the Australian community.

Republished from ACECQA’s blog We Hear You.


The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) oversees the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF) and works with the state and territory regulatory authorities to implement and administer the NQF. Rhonda Livingstone is National Education Leader at the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). Rhonda provides national leadership, policy advice and recommendations on pedagogy and educational program and practice to enhance learning and development of children attending education and care services across Australia. Rhonda has more than 20 years’ experience in the early childhood sector, including working as a centre director, sessional academic and training coordinator, in government contributing to the development of national policy and legislation, and was a part of working groups to develop standards and resources for the NQF. Having worked as both a service provider and assessor, Rhonda has a keen interest in contributing to the discussion about streamlining processes to minimise burden and maintaining a focus on ensuring quality outcomes for children and families.

3 thoughts on “Why are we so afraid to march to the beat of our own drum?”

    Karen Kearns says:

    Meghan’s analogy with our inner music is an interesting one. We each dance to the beat of our own drum but I believe it’s just not that simple. The fear factor has become so all consuming – in fact it has in many ways subsumed the intent of the NQF. EC educators have lost their voice – their inner dance has been silenced by anxiety and uncertainty. EC educators no longer have ownership of their profession – it has been highjacked by unrealistic expectations misinterpretation of the NQF. It makes me sad that such a vibrant and vital sector of our society can no longer dance ear own dance.

    sandie says:

    It is my belief that many philosophies are fake..just a wonderfully written compilation of statements that espouse to fulfil various outcomes and make a great impression when displayed in a Handbook or on the wall.
    Why cannot we be honest and say simply that every child will be given every chance to learn,to be loved,to be nutured and to be
    happy . OK,so maybe that would be too simplistic but, quite honestly,do we really need those, long winded tombs that are so full of eduspeak that many parents are totally confounded!

    Joanne Roe says:

    I feel Knowledge is everything if we are not confident with NQF, NQS, regulations or our community etc. This can make it very difficult to confidently dance to your own music. Through being committed to understanding our own why’s through theory and research will help us to confidently find the right music and dance. Supporting our teams to develop a deeper understanding of Early childhood practices and theories and simplify complex regulations using visuals and flowcharts. Then embrace your own music and become the best dancer/ Educator you can be.

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